Sports Betting Odds Boosters: Good Deals or Bankroll Busters?
Competition is rising in the new US sports betting market and operators are trying to get an edge over their competitors any way they can. Some do so by offering deposit bonuses and refunding bad beats. Offering enhanced odds – more commonly referred to as “odds boosters” – for certain bets is another mechanism used to attract sports bettors.
For example, DraftKings Sportsbook currently offers Manchester United and Arsenal both winning (5/25) at even money (+100). The original -120 line would require a bettor to risk $12 to win $10 on the same bet. FanDuel Sportsbook boosted Rickie Fowler’s Top 5 odds at the Wells Fargo Championship from +280 to +310. In this case, a $10 bet would earn $31 instead of $28.
Some shops are even more ambitious, offering “Super Boosters” in hopes of attracting prospective customers.
For the NFL Draft, PointsBet dropped Kyler Murray’s odds to be selected No. 1 overall from -1000 to +100. BetStars offered Tiger Woods to win the Masters at 100-1, four times the value Woods was given at other shops.
While sportsbooks try to pass this off as altruism, there’s definitely more to the story.
I for one don’t care about the motives. Making a long-term profit betting sports is difficult as is. If a company is refunding bad beats, I’m happy to accept. Likewise, if sportsbooks offer value with odds boosts, why not take advantage of them?
The question is, how much value, if any, are sportsbooks really giving to customers via odds boosters? I tracked over 100 boosted odds from FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, PointsBet and BetStars to try to find out. While 104 bets isn’t the largest sample size, the findings may surprise you – even if they are just anecdotal.
Sportsbooks have always set limits on certain bets. In smaller markets such as golf, tennis and soccer, customers can usually wager only a fraction of what’s allowed on major sports like pro football and basketball. Prop bets have even smaller limits.
Additionally, there has been much fuss about sportsbooks limiting “sharps.” Some sportsbooks are tighter than others. PointsBet recently announced a $10,000 Game Day Guarantee that they’ll honor all NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL spreadline and moneyline bets up to $10,000 on the day of the game, regardless of the customer, while other sportsbooks have been criticized for going as far as banning sharp money.
Even the less risk-averse PointsBet sportsbook proceeds with caution when it comes to boosters. For their Kyler Murray “Super Booster” promotion, PointsBet dropped their normal $100 booster limit to $50 and only accepted bets at +100 odds from the first 1000 customers.
To be fair, that specific booster offered tremendous value to PointsBet customers. PointsBet set themselves up to lose $50,000 if all 1000 wagers were maxed out. Chalk it up as a marketing expense, though. You can bet the New Jersey operator plans on winning more than $50 back from each of their new sign-ups over the long haul.
It might take longer for BetStars to recover from their Tiger Woods 100-1 promotion despite limiting bets to $10. The sportsbook reported a $360,000 net loss on Masters outright bets, but it could have been even worse. One BetStars executive admitted to suggesting they allow $100 bets on the promotion, saying “there’s no way Tiger is winning this tournament.”
Next to FanDuel Sportsbook’s odds boosts reads “Max Bet $50,” though according to a tweet from the FanDuel’s twitter account, they had $100 limits when they first launched in September 2018.
DraftKings Sportsbook’s odds boost limits are less clear, but it appears they too are right around $50.
Like FanDuel, the Golden Nugget’s mobile site lists their limits to the side of each “Golden Line” offering. Some Golden Lines are limited to $10 while others, like Tottenham or Liverpool to win the Champions League +130, have a max stake of $250.
Based on my one-week experiment, with a few exceptions, “boosters” would be more appropriately referred to as bankroll “busters.”
Logging as many boosted odds as I could find between April 23rd and April 30th, I tallied the results based on hypothetical $10 wagers for each offer. Aside from only recording selections from FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, PointsBet and BetStars (and missing offers for April 26th and 28th), I didn’t discriminate on what offers I would “bet” on. If it was there, I took it.
Good thing it was only a number on a spreadsheet.
Of 104 bets, only 21 were winners. The highest odds booster hit was a +600 bet on the Philadelphia 76ers to beat the Toronto Raptors by 1-5 points on April 29th, cashing $60 on my spreadsheet.
A lot of boosters are in the form of a parlay, requiring separate outcomes to take place in order be win the parlay. One example is Manchester United and Manchester City both winning on April 28th, boosted from +222 to +245 at DraftKings Sportsbook. The Manchester United game was a draw, resulting in a loss on the boosted parlay.
One shouldn’t expect to win 50% of their parlays. A two-leg parlay where each side is -110 is expected to hit 25% of the time. That’s 26 out of 104 bets. Other boosters are on rarer events, such as baseball players recording a home run or basketball players scoring significantly more than their points prop.
With over 80 percent of the original booster odds recorded between +120 and +1000, the 21-83 record isn’t concerning. More troublesome is the $361 lost – a -34.71% ROI – throughout the week. The EV (expected value) of a two-team parlay is -10%. Over the course of 104 $10 two-team parlays, one would expect to lose $104, more than three times what was lost on this week full of odds boosters.
If you placed the same amount on 104 traditional -110 lines and had an even .500 record, you’d lose only $47 – or just -4.52% of the $1040 invested.
So, why didn’t these enhanced odds translate to positive numbers on my spreadsheet?
One explanation is that some boosters might be deceptive, or “traps,” if you will.
On the 29th, I decided to check what some odds boosters paid out if I parlayed individual selections myself outside of the odds boosters tab. A Cody Bellinger home run and Dodgers win showed a +656 payout when the boosted odds were just +605 (original odds were +515) at DraftKings Sportsbook. Similarly, a Tyler Seguin goal and Dallas Stars win was boosted from +225 to +265 when a separate parlay showed +439.
Both boosted parlays involved correlated events. Being outside of the New Jersey, I wasn’t able to see if DraftKings Sportsbook would adjust for that after submitting the parlays myself.
To DraftKings’ credit, another boosted parlay was the complete opposite, paying out +740 compared to +535 when parlaying it separately.
On that same day, a Joc Pederson home run was boosted from +270 to +300 at FanDuel Sportsbook, while DraftKing’s home run market listed a Pederson home run at +350, just another lesson on the importance of shopping for the best prices even when a bet is labeled a “booster.”
A second explanation is that it’s simply too small of a sample size. The 104 data points isn’t that large in the grand scheme of things. To add to the possible noise, a lot of offers across the four sportsbooks were related. They weren’t identical bets, but if Steph didn’t score 30+ points for one leg of a PointsBet odds booster, then FanDuel’s odds booster of Curry 35+ points and Warriors win ended up a loser, too.
A more plausible answer lies somewhere in between.
If sportsbooks were really trying to deceive, they wouldn’t limit their traps to $50-$100. At the same time, boosters are one-way markets where the bettor can only wager for something, not against it. By its very name, an odds booster implies there’s an opportunity to take advantage of when in reality, most boosters aren’t profitable long term. But it would take more data to compare the long-term expected value of odds bosters to traditional bets and parlays. There are also those rare super boosters – like Kyler Murray and Tiger Woods – where the added value is undeniable.
In short, when sportsbooks suggest they are giving away EV, don’t take their word for it. Shop around, do your own math and be patient. You might not find Tiger Woods 100-1 to win the Masters ever again, but with regulated sports betting rapidly expanding, there will occasionally be boosters worth biting on.